Biological products the way forward
Most New Zealand farmers are extremely concerned about taking care of their piece of land for the next generation, but what does that really mean? Scott Hobson, from BioHelp New Zealand, says chemical-based agriculture faces significant problems.
Not only has it failed to deliver the promise of eliminating disease and improving human health, but our environment is falling apart. In fact, disease pressure has increased.
In addition, world phosphate reserves are expected to run out within 90 years. He points to global problems such as nutrient run-off, nitrates in water, and the deterioration in human health.
To combat them, the use of biological products is expanding rapidly as the flaws in solely chemical agriculture become obvious.
There is a growing movement of scientists and farmers around the world to use biologically based products to suppress disease and enhance nutrient efficiency.
Scott says putting lime and magnesium on the ground doesn’t produce very strong results because it’s not a targeted approach. “People are using these words, ‘biological farming’, as a marketing tool to sell chemicals,” he says.
“Calcium and magnesium are still chemicals. True biological products will target the biological mass of the soil, and a targeted approach is going to produce a significantly different result to a nontargeted approach.”
He says biology is infinitely more powerful than people realise: “Take the likes of botulism. One gram can kill 1000 people, but it takes 100gm of nuclear material to do the same job.”
Soil biology is also an incredibly powerful force, he says, with some microbiologists now believing up to 80 per cent of soil nutrient movement is controlled by soil microbes.
“The reason we do what we do is to change the way we do agriculture, and find a very low-input, high-output system, which will suppress disease. It’s the way of the future, and it’s working.”
He says that when BioHelp gets a farm in the direction of low-input, high-output, with low disease, the farm will begin to use a quarter or a fifth of the fertiliser, insecticides, and fungicides it did before.
“Plants grow faster because the root mass of a plant is increased, which brings more water and more nutrients.
“With biological farming, we change the efficiency of the soil getting water and nutrients to the plant, which can increase the growth of the plant. Soil nitrogen, soil compaction and even soil temperatures change in our favour. This has very positive implications for the environment and farm profits.”
Fertiliser is stored in soil reserves, and BioHelp clients can draw from soil reserves or apply small amounts of fertiliser as maintenance.
The soil is set up biologically with the capacity to release nutrients effectively.
In northern Southland, Stan Winter is trialilng some of BioHelp’s biological products on five sites, covering a variety of conditions.
“The point of this trial is not so much to say “Can it out-perform the competitors’ products?’, but ‘Can you sustainably grow pasture for animals to eat with minimal inputs of nutrients?’,” he says.
“This is one way of seeing if it’s possible to release nutrients in the soil, if we can sustainably produce without having to add urea, and if we can ease off on solid fertiliser. We are saying ‘yes’ to these things as we’re still picking up after 14 months with a single application, and achieving 20 per cent extra growth over conventional farming practices.”
BioHelp products are distributed solely by McDonald Agri-Fert.